Worlds at War

  • by Anthony Pagden
  • Narrated by John Lee
  • 20 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In the tradition of Jared Diamond and Jacques Barzun, prize-winning historian Anthony Pagden presents a sweeping history of the long struggle between East and West, from the Greeks to the present day.The relationship between East and West has always been one of turmoil. In this historical tour de force, a renowned historian leads us from the world of classical antiquity, through the Dark Ages, to the Crusades, Europe's resurgence, and the dominance of the Ottoman Empire, which almost shattered Europe entirely. Pagden travels from Napoleon in Egypt to Europe's carving up of the finally moribund Ottomans - creating the modern Middle East along the way - and on to the present struggles in Iraq.Throughout, we learn a tremendous amount about what "East" and "West" were and are, and how it has always been competing worldviews and psychologies, more than religion or power grabs, that have fed the mistrust and violence between East and West. In Pagden's dark but provocative view, this struggle cannot help but go on.


What the Critics Say

"An accessible and lucid exploration of the history of the East-West split....Fans of Jacques Barzun and Jared Diamond will be most impressed by Pagden's big picture perspective." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great story, with a lot of unfamiliar names

This is a great story -- as the cover of the book says, it's the 2500-year history of conflict between East and West. The geographical locations are actually a bit more specific than that: the East is the Middle East (the Persian Empire, the the Safavid Empire, the Ottoman Empire); the West is mostly Western Europe (Greece, Rome, Spain, France, Germany). The history is partly political and military, and partly intellectual: all the great battles are here, but considerable space is also given, for example, to the ideas about "Orientalism" that spread through Europe in the 18th century. The narrative moves rapidly and includes a rich amount of surprising detail.

Then there are the names. One of the strengths of the book is also one of its weaknesses, at least as an audiobook. I've read a lot of world history, but even so I found the book loaded with unfamiliar names, many of them Arabic, French, or Spanish (a good thing, since I was hoping to learn something new); and I found it difficult at times, with John Lee's very posh and precise pronunciation, to visualize the spelling (a bad thing). I discovered in the process that I'm a much more visually-oriented learner than I realized. (I got around the problem by checking the book out of the library and looking stuff up.)

Compared to Pagden's "Peoples and Empires," also available here, this is both longer and more focused: it doesn't try to tell all of world history, just as much as possible about this one aspect of it. John Lee is a great narrator, and it's an absorbing and rewarding listen.
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- Tad Davis

Good history

Well-read audiobook. The place names are often difficult because of their relative obscurity to our current history texts. In many cases, further study must start with a Web-search for the persons mentioned to discover the spelling of the places mentioned.

The major downside of this book is the author's militant secular viewpoint. The thesis of the book seems to contain only the factious and warlike nature of religion throughout history, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim. As this is a book on conflict between the East and West, that would be understandable if it stopped there. The author however, through frequent asides and careful choice of adjectives, displays his disdain for Christianity and Islam. As this is a scholarly work, the bias may be founded in his academia, but it is, nonetheless, a clear and ubiquitous bias.

Probably not a good read for high-schoolers or younger.
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- Amazon Customer

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-21-2008
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio